Americans hold a wide range of opinions about abortion that should be respected. Whatever one's beliefs about abortion, it is essential to inform those beliefs with honest facts contributed by the best reliable research and professional opinion.
This summer, the Globe published a column by Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that failed to be honest or to provide reliable facts.
While I respect AAPLOG's right to oppose abortion, I do not respect their distortion of facts about abortion, childbirth and maternal health. It is especially offensive that Harrison couches their positions as “medical ethics” conclusions and gives the impression that they represent a majority of OB/GYNs.
AAPLOG claims membership of 6,000. Meanwhile, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has 58,000 members — 90% of practicing OB/GYNs.
ACOG has disclaimed AAPLOG, despite their self-identification as a “special interest group” of the larger organization. ACOG has also debunked, with peer-reviewed and otherwise validated scientific evidence, many AAPLOG claims.
The following are but two of AAPLOG's sensationalized so-called medical arguments against abortion:
• The group claims that abortion is not safe or medically necessary for virtually anyone and that carrying to term remains the safest option. Other scientific and medical groups refute this. The National Institutes of Health has established that legal abortion is many times safer than childbirth.
• It claims abortion causes breast cancer. Again, the ACOG disputes this, pointing out how the studies were flawed. The National Cancer Institute confirms that breast cancer is not a predictable outcome of abortion.
AAPLOG also condemns the motivations of pro-choice providers and implies that a moral stance is shared by the majority of OB/GYNs. Harrison suggests that 86% of OB/GYNs refuse to perform abortions because of ethical objections. Her statistic is consistent with current practice, which finds that about 14% do perform the service, but her interpretation is misleading.
As pointed out in the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 18), she fails to mention that many OB/GYNs do not offer the service because of restrictions imposed on them by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state regulations, or employers' policies — often barriers that have no medical necessity. A recent Guttmacher study showed that 28% of those who do not currently perform abortions would be willing to do so if some of these restrictions were lifted, especially now that early terminations can be done with pills.
The American Medical Association states that their principles “do not prohibit a physician from performing an abortion in accordance with good medical practice and under circumstances that do not validate the law” (AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, March 2013).
Though the AMA has tried to stay out of arguments about abortion, it is becoming more aggressive in its objections to legislative restrictions that distort medical facts and disregard safe medical practice. In a rare effort to defend abortion rights, the organization has sued North Dakota because of medically unfounded abortion restrictions (NPR, All Things Considered, June 20).
OB/GYNs, like the rest of us, have many different opinions and moral stances on abortion. It is misleading to imply otherwise. And it is misleading to imply that AAPLOG’s opinions are the majority consensus among medical professionals.
Abortion continues to be a deeply divisive issue. When groups like AAPLOG spread inaccurate information, dishonestly portray a high level of professional agreement regarding abortion, claim the moral high ground, and misrepresent the motivations of pro-choice advocates, they contaminate the debate.
This does not help us as we formulate our personal stances on abortion and determine what we want our public policy to be. We are obligated to use legitimate facts to support our conclusions.
Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin.